The Swedish troubadour of Argentine descent took the stage by his lonesome at Hollywood ArtsPark at 8:15. He strummed his guitar and filled with his voice whatever few spots remained on the grassy hillside covered in lawn chairs or bed sheets.
For the second song, "What Will," along with the remainder of his hourlong set, González was joined by his backing band, consisting of a drummer, a percussionist, a second guitarist, and a hand clapper/finger snapper. In front of a black backdrop depicting a simple illustration of mountains and stars, the quintet played a combination of songs from González's own sensitive songbook and a few quieted covers, like those of Massive Attack's "Teardrop" and Kylie Minogue's "Hand on Your Heart."
This performance kicked off the first night of González's fall American tour, and the band was tight, allowing itself to take folk music into borderline jam-session territory. The fact that it was a free show also meant there were plenty of people at the park simply because they wanted a pleasant night out under the stars, perhaps having mistakenly stereotyped a man with the name José González as some kind of salsa singer.
But González also had a devoted fan base present that enjoyed a rare opportunity of seeing a talented artist without harming their bank accounts. They swarmed the front of the stage as if it were a much smaller, more intimate club, cheering and applauding at all the appropriate times. When one woman screamed, "We love you, José," he merely gave an appreciative nod.
The singer is stoic, remaining calm through only a couple of technical problems with the sound, just as when a siren from the nearby street encroached on one of his songs. The only emotions he showed on the evening were heard via his soft, though direct and precise, singing voice.
Openers Luluc are also among the quiet revolution. The male/female guitarists from Australia by way of Brooklyn introduced the night with 45 minutes of pretty bedroom folk. Singer Zoë Randell's voice was reminiscent of Nico, the way it echoed with their harmonizing guitar-playing.
It was a subtle evening, rare for a local concert in that afterward your ears weren't ringing, but you still found yourself humming.
José González Setlist:
Hand on Your Heart (Kylie Minogue cover)
Walking Lightly (Junip song)
Let It Carry You
Leaf Off/The Cave
Killing For Love
This Is How We Walk on the Moon (Arthur Russell cover)
Teardrop (Massive Attack cover)
Down the Line